Evading the Microsoft tax

Dec 6, 2009   //   by Teo   //   Amarok, KDE  //  11 Comments

A few months ago I submitted my work for the Social Desktop Contest, organized by Frank of openDesktop.org. As you may remember, my submission was the social about dialog for KDE apps, currently only in Amarok, but I hope to move it to KDElibs when my university thesis work, my work work and other IRL stuff gives me a break.

Turns out, lots of people seemed to really like it (thank you for voting!), and it won the first prize, which was a Dell Mini 10v netbook with Ubuntu – a really great and appropriate gift for a Free Software contest.

Unfortunately Dell has a really weird way of doing business, long story short, regardless of the free movement of goods inside the EU, because of Dell’s arbitrary business choices it was virtually impossible to ship the netbook from Dell directly to me in Italy. Anyway, Frank and I found an alternative solution with me placing the order on Amazon.co.uk, and a few days ago I received an EeePC 1008HA (they didn’t have the Dell Mini 10v). The netbook market has changed a lot since its beginnings and nowadays it’s very hard to find a netbook without Windows, this one was no exception as it had the Microsoft tax on its price and that ghastly Windows license sticker on its underside. I hoped to get back the cost of the license, mostly for ethical reasons, and I hoped that Amazon.co.uk would do the right thing as described here, but a few weeks ago I picked up some random report on Slashdot about Amazon now refusing to cooperate in honoring Microsoft’s EULA, which made me worry a bit.

EeePC 1008HA with Archlinux and KDE SC 4.4

After I got the package, I just sent a polite message through the official Amazon.co.uk support channels, and at first, I got a canned response from a support guy offering me a full refund for the netbook. When I replied kindly requesting that they actually read my message, the support person replied with an e-mail full of apologies and offered me a ~30€ refund for the Windows license, without asking any further information or proof of any kind. I wouldn’t bet that the 30€ bill made it all the way to Microsoft through Asus, but I hope that if enough people bother Amazon with this, they might eventually poke Asus. So, including shipping and after the Windows refund, this netbook cost about the same as the Dell Mini 10v with Ubuntu would have, and it’s an awesome little gadget.

I’m running Archlinux on it, installed with the Chakra live distribution (the latest Archlinux live USB stick image isn’t recent enough for a confortable installation on this hardware), but I removed the stable (and awesome) KDEmod packages to replace them with packages from a KDE SC 4.4 snapshot repo. Hardware support under GNU/Linux is great, aside from the wired ethernet adapter which required some tweaking but it works now. Battery life is incredible. I had no trouble getting used to the keyboard, which is quite good, but the touchpad buttons are hard and they make middle-clicking difficult. The Atom N280 based system feels reasonably fast.

I want to take this chance to thank Frank Karlitschek for his hosting of the OCS contest and his help and cooperation.

Thumbs down Dell for actively refusing to do business like any decent internet store in the EU, and thumbs up Amazon.co.uk for cooperating with me in exercising the rights that the Windows EULA grants me.

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